Gilbert Theater prepares a new take on an old story

Judas"The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" is a new take on an old story, according to Matt Gore, the director of the latest Gilbert Theater production.

"'The Last Days of Judas Iscariot' is a reconfiguration of a lot of New Testament dogma in a way that is new and fresh," said Matt Gore, who also plays the character Satan in the play. "It is a reconsideration of the entire case of Judas Iscariot."

Matt Gore added that Judas is in the lowest circle of hell, the ninth circle, and he has been there for a long time. In purgatory, they are retrying his soul to see if he deserves to stay there for eternity or if he deserves forgiveness.

The author of "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" is Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis.

"It is basically a courtroom drama, but it deals with metaphysical religious questions of free will, forgiveness, culpability and are we responsible for our own actions," said Lawrence Carlisle, artistic director at the Gilbert Theater and he plays the characters Judge Littlefield and Caiaphas, the Elder in the production.

"I found the play to be incredibly well written, and I thought it was an interesting way to do it as in a courtroom."

He feels the play's content appeals to everyone, not just those who are religious.

"I am not a particularly religious person, but I thought that a lot of the questions it asks and the ideas it puts forth are kind of universal," said Carlisle. "It does not matter what religion you are, and if you are no religion, these are all questions and things that concern the human experience."

The play features several interesting and prominent characters.

"I read the script a little over a year ago, and everybody wants to be Satan when they read the script, but I wanted to be Judas," said Justin Gore, who is the character Judas in the play.

"I think Judas is one of the most interesting characters from a lot of different perspectives, but mostly Judas calls into question the entire premise of what God is capable of because if everything is pre-ordained, is Judas wrong for what he did or did he actually have free will and he deserves his punishment?"
Justin Gore added, "I did not do that much preparation for the role besides watch a couple of different movies, read the script and talk to the director."

"There are lawyers from hell trying this case, and the judge is from purgatory," said Carlisle. "We call witnesses that include Mother Theresa, Sigmund Freud and Satan himself."

"This is a very interesting and challenging play to direct because it really requires you to think outside of the box, and it requires you to tackle various things that are not altogether easy to tackle," said Matt Gore.

"From a religious standpoint, it does ask questions that are difficult, but at the same time, I think a lot of people who are religious and a lot of people that might not be anymore, still have those questions and this play asks them and those things are important to me."

He added, "The message is don't be afraid to ask the hard questions and if you don't find an answer, keep searching until you do."

Carlisle hopes that people will broaden their horizons and leave behind preconceptions.

"I would love it if people would leave their emotions at the door and really just take the play for what it is," said Carlisle. "I want people to think because the main purpose of art is to make you think and feel something."

The play will run from Jan. 28 to Feb. 13. and is rated R as it contains a fair amount of adult language and themes and is for audiences 18 years and older.

Tickets cost $18, but there is a discount for students, the military and groups. Tickets can be purchased at For more information, call 910- 678-7186.

Black experience: source of light and inspiration

MiddlegroundThe focus on the Black experience as a source of light and inspiration is fueling the 2022 Middleground Arts Series (MAS) festival.

MAS launched in November 2020 to create new, electric experiences in the middle ground between divergent communities.

MAS began in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic with collaborative festivals, including the communal painting of a large triptych led by Kellie Perkins in November 2020. Additional events followed that included a jazz concert by Skip Walker & Friends, classical duets such as Duo-Cellists Paul and Diana Kirkpatrick and Darrin Thiriot with Scott Marosek, Kirtan Bliss Band, meditation events, a speaking presentation from Buddhist speaker Heiwa No Bushi, collaborative writing workshops led by UNCP Professor Laura Hakala, an Americana blues concert with Aaron Alderman, a piano and electronic music concert with Yaroslav Borisov and more.

MAS plans to focus on celebrating and space-making in the arts in 2022. They are working on "creating moments of integration, connection and community through the arts," according to their website. MAS describes themselves as being "located in a shared space -- the high ground of the Sandhills and Fayetteville's Historic Haymount district, the low country of Eastern North Carolina, the overlapping territories of the sacred, secular and natural worlds -- MAS sits at the intersection of diverse artistic forms, political ideologies and interests."

On Jan. 27 to 28, MAS is holding their latest festival, "The Idea of Freedom (TIF)."

"We try to hold a major event each fall or Spring and then smaller events throughout the year. This is scheduled to be our main event for 2022," Nan Cekuta, Rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, said.

MAS is creating a new experience to bring artists together to express themselves. TIF is a mix of performance, audience interaction and experiential installation. What is fresh about this event is that artists will be paired up to create new art inspired by the artists and the attendees.

There will be three groups of two artists coming together. During the two-day event, the groups will create two projects. At the end of the festival, the six works will be combined with an attendees' piece, so there will be seven artworks total.

The plan is to experience a journey along with three different spaces. The artists and attendees will have truly up-close experiences with light, sound and most importantly, art.

The event will occur at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 1601 Raeford Road. The event will also be streamable at

Folks interested in attending can find the schedule for the festival on the Holy Trinity website. MAS will be held from Jan. 27 to 28, from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. each day. Registration for the events is available at Donations of $10 per person are recommended, and organizers ask larger groups contribute $3 per person.

Fayetteville Symphony presents 'Too Hot to Handel'

All About That BrassThe Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra's unofficial home at St. John's Episcopal Church enhances the intimacy of performances. The upcoming performance, "Too Hot to Handel," will be performed in its intimate setting at St. John's.

"We will be performing at St. John's on Jan. 21, [the performance is] entitled 'Too Hot to Handel' featuring music by the great English-German baroque composer, George Frideric Handel, the composer of the famed Hallelujah Chorus," said Stefan Sanders, Music Director at the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra. Sanders is a graduate of the Julliard School, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Interlochen Arts Academy.
Baroque Era music dates to approximately 1600 to 1750.

Handel received his training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg before settling in London in 1712. Handel's compositions include 42 operas, 25 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, odes and serenatas, solo and trio sonatas, 18 concerti grossi and 12 organ concertos.

The range of Handel's music inspired the upcoming "Too Hot to Handel" concert. While he wrote a lot of sacred music, as well as purely instrumental music, and operas the latter two will be the focus in this program.

The highlight of the program is Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks."

Bronwen Pence will perform as the soprano soloist for "Too Hot to Handel." Pence has a bachelor's degree in vocal performance specializing in opera from the University of Michigan. She has performed in numerous operas, operettas, musicals and choirs over the years. She currently is a member of Cumberland Choral Arts and a member of the Cross Creek Chorale.

"I am looking forward to collaborating with such an expressive and talented conductor and ensemble to present the fullest expression of these songs," Pence explained. "I have performed Handel's work before but only with Piano accompaniment. It will be a joy to perform them with full orchestra."

Pence explained that the music in this program is for everyone.

"Live music from talented performers is an uplifting experience," said Pence. "You do not have to be an expert or a musician to enjoy the works."

Sanders also touts the approachability of the program for all listeners and his favorite part of the program is the diversity in style and genres in which Handel wrote; the selections in the "Too Hot to Handel" program highlight this.

"If someone has never been to see and hear the symphony, I encourage them to come with an open mind and an open heart," Sanders said. "Classical music is for everyone and does not require anything from the listener other than their attention. Anyone that enjoys live musical performances should attend this program."

To purchase tickets, you may contact the symphony office at (910)433-4690 or you may purchase online through the website

Military outreach through the arts

Military ArtArt is a celebration of life, intended by the artist to put the spectator in touch with the divine.
– Joseph Plaskett, Canadian painter

Have you ever wanted to create art to express yourself? Cape Fear Studios is offering the opportunity to do just that to military-affiliated members of the community. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County has awarded funding to Cape Fear Studios to offer classes to military personnel, their spouses, and their children through Creative Arts and Military Outreach (CAMO).

CAMO launched in 2018, employing a coordinator who works with military and military-adjacent organizations throughout Cumberland County. The initial phase of CAMO served as a needs assessment – reviewing arts, culture and history opportunities available specifically for members of the military and their families.

Initially funded for the first two years through a Military and Healing Arts grant from N.C. Arts Council, CAMO also had private funding from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County.

COVID-19 brought a realignment of funding priorities for N.C. Arts Council, which eliminated the Military and Health Arts grant program in 2020. For the past two years, the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County has funded the initiative through internal fundraising efforts.

Pre-COVID-19, CAMO enrollment benefited as many as 150 people per quarter. The visual arts and pottery classes taught now by local artists at Cape Fear Studios will support learning for around 70 individuals through May 2022.

All military and military-affiliated individuals are welcome in CAMO classes regardless of their skill level.

CAMO serves active-duty soldiers, veterans and family members looking for therapeutic and enjoyable ways to develop their artistic skills. And especially family members of deployed active-duty soldiers and veterans with past deployments.

Cape Fear Studios provides a safe and accommodating space where military members and their families can commune and connect. The idea behind bringing the military community together in a creative space is to provide them with an outlet for quality time not directly related to their work or home lives. Cape Fear Studios will begin their CAMO partnership by offering a variety of classes, including drawing classes with Sara Jane Lee, painting classes with Angela Stout, and pottery lessons with Guy Jencks.

Cumberland County has a lot to offer in terms of art, culture and history," said Kennon Jackson, Jr., Executive Vice President of the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Arts Council. "The Arts Council fully supports its military community."

CAMO provides military members and their families a no-cost option to enjoy a creative outlet that otherwise may not be available to them. Through CAMO, the Arts Council also seeks to capitalize on the expertise and value in its partnerships with nonprofit arts organizations like Cape Fear Studios.

The plan is to spread the word through Facebook, including Facebook groups for military wives and families, word of mouth, and the Cape Fear Studios Website. Classes offered as part of the CAMO program will be free. For additional information, visit or

Artist advocates for homeless through exhibit

Faces of HomelessnessHow often do we encounter people impacted by homelessness? Do you know they are there? Or have you trained yourself not to look at them? You may remember, if you think on it, where someone homeless hangs out, panhandling day after day, maybe with a sign that reads “God Bless You.”

The newest Arts Council of Fayetteville Cumberland County (ACFCC) exhibit, "I AM SOMEBODY ­– Faces of Homelessness Exhibition: Works by Dona Marlowe," is on display until Jan. 22. Individuals interested in seeing the show can do so at The Arts Center located at 301 Hay St. in historic downtown Fayetteville.

“These images must be seen to be felt,” Marlowe explains. “Getting to know the people depicted in my photographs, I invited them to participate in my artistic representation of them — including a welcomed invitation to visit this exhibit.”

The idea for the exhibit came to Marlowe when she realized that when she encountered the homeless, she always averted her eyes, pretending not to notice these individuals. She wondered what it must be like to be unseen.

This realization caused Marlowe to think about how the unhoused community is around us but not acknowledged, and certainly not with us.

“How must it feel to be excluded by most, if not all, of society,” Marlowe asked.

She decided to create photographs and mixed media portraits, but she didn’t do it herself. She had help. Stacey Buckner, the owner of Off-Road Rescue, introduced Marlowe to the homeless community and another helper also helped find an additional two people to participate.

Sam Robbins’ song, “Hard to Hate,” was adapted for the show to play during the exhibit.

Fifty percent of the proceeds from all sales of the photographs will be donated to Off-Road Outreach.

Marlowe’s portrait of an individual named William, featured in this exhibit, was selected for the 2021 Annual Juried Exhibition by the Artist Collective in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She sees “I AM SOMEBODY - Faces of Homelessness” as the first of many projects on her journey as a photo activist.

She uses her art to fight for unseen, unheard, forgotten or powerless people.

She hopes that the masses will open their eyes to those struggling and do what we can to help them.

ACFCC, who are hosting the exhibit, are a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization based in Fayetteville. They support individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development and lifelong learning through the arts.

Founded in 1973, the ACFCC has served as a link between artists, arts and cultural organizations and the greater community by administering programs in partnership with a variety of local agencies to stimulate economic growth, reinforce child education through the arts and enhance the cultural identity of the arts and entertainment district.

This event is free and open to the public. For additional information visit, or call, 910-323-1776.

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